Three Rules for Better Coffee
Rule #1 - Buy Whole Bean
There are two key reasons why you should buy whole bean, and why we only offer whole bean as a purchase option.
First is freshness.
There are two important things that contribute to the freshness of your coffee after being roasted.
1) The oils in the beans
2) The gasses trapped in the beans
Immediately after roasting, a good portion of gasses begin to escape the porous structure of the bean. The coffee can be "gassy" for the first 1-2 days (sometimes a little more) post roast. You'll see this in an extreme if you do pour overs, or use something like an Aeropress, and it is why we taste test our sample roasts for a period of days post roast. During this degassing time the coffee will foam up quite a bit, to the point that you can cause some messy situations if you are not prepared for the increased volume of your solution. A portion of this CO2 is still trapped in the bean after it has a rest period, and this, in combination with the oils in the bean, contribute a great deal to the flavors and texture of your coffee. Within minutes of being ground these oils and gasses begin to evaporate and escape, and with that goes most of what made that bean special.
Second is control.
A large part of the coffee brewing process is the coarseness of the grind for the application. If you were to use an espresso grind in a percolator you would end up with over extracted coffee that would come across more like brewed corrugated cardboard than a delicious cup... and that is even with the best coffee being used.
This is a function of three variables in the brewing process:
1) Surface Area - The more surface area there is per unit volume of coffee the more water can work on the porous spaces to pull out the oils and material that turn the water into coffee. Coarser grinds have a smaller surface area to volume ratio, and therefore extract slower, which is ideal for brewing methods like drip coffee machines.
2) Temperature - To go with how much area the water has to work with comes the temperature with which you are brewing. The higher the temperature the faster the extraction. Now add this to surface area, which is a faster extraction as the grind gets finer, and you can accelerate or slow down the brewing process in two ways. A fine grind at a higher temperature (espresso) is a much quicker brew than a coarse grind at a low temperature (cold brew).
3) Pressure - The higher the pressure the faster the extraction. In presses or espresso machines you're dealing with a higher pressure (approximately 9 bar, or 9x the pressure of the air at sea level) as compared to a percolator or drip brew machine (pressure of the air in the room where you are).
Putting these three variables together you can see the need to tailor the grind for the application, and pre-ground coffee does not give you this freedom. For an espresso machine you need an extremely fine grind to be able to fully extract the coffee in the ~25 seconds of brew time, as compared to a drip coffee machine where you're brewing over the course of a few minutes. Buying whole bean gives you the option to use that coffee in multiple ways depending on how you're feeling that day. I know for me there are days I want a pressed coffee, others I make shots or americanos, and still others that I break out the Bialetti... all of which require a different grind.
Rule #2 - Grind Before You Brew
This rule just follows so naturally after Rule #1 doesn't it?
You've already taken the first step toward a better cup of coffee and purchased whole bean instead of pre-ground... so the next step is grinding that coffee up to be used!
You have two options here... one of which goes right along with the first point about why to buy whole bean coffee, and the other, well, let's just say it's not ideal, but there are ways to make it better.
1) Grind Before You Brew - Doing this ensures that the coffee you are using is at it's maximum freshness by minimizing the time that the ground coffee is exposed to the air. No matter what the pedigree of the coffee you are using is you will get a better cup by doing this.
2) Grind In Advance - Here we fall into the pre-ground coffee trap of losing a lot of the elements that make a bean special. Now don't get me wrong here... this is still far superior to buying pre-ground coffee at the store. You are putting yourself in a position to use the coffee within hours or maybe just a few days of it being ground as opposed to the weeks or possibly even months that the store bought coffee has been sitting around. I know some of you have family in the house that may enjoy sleeping later than you do, or children that you hope will sleep juuuust a little bit longer to give you some peace and quiet, so making all of that noise first thing in the AM can ruin the start to what might have been an otherwise pleasant morning. That makes grinding your coffee up beforehand more essential, and if this is the case, the key here is to make sure you aren't grinding too far in advance. Do just a day or two worth of coffee at a time, and you will have yourself a better cup.
Rule #3 - Use Filtered Water
A cup of coffee (in it's simplest form) is just two things:
1) Coffee Beans
So now that we've taken care of the first part of this magical union, lets address the last part.
Coffee can have very delicate and transient qualities that get completely overshadowed and muted by the myriad of things that find their way into our tap water. It's the same reason why you don't put tap water in good scotch (in liquid or ice form). It's like dropping the ball at the 1 yard line after making a spectacular play... If you've come this far with me, lets cross that finish line and complete the process with the right ingredient for the job, clean filtered water. The idea here is to provide a good foundation to build the flavor of your coffee upon, so the fewer extraneous elements we impart in the brewing process the better.
Lots of people have water filters built into their fridge, pitchers with filters, or in-line systems with their faucet, so this final step is possibly the easiest one of them all as you're already doing it for your drinking water on a daily basis.
There we have it... three super easy things that you can start doing right away that will 100% make you a better cup of coffee.